CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern was unable to hold off a persistent Gardner-Webb attack on Friday night as the Buccaneers fell in five sets to the visiting Runnin' Bulldogs, 25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 25-21, 15-13.
Madison Martin led a CSU (12-17. 7-6) defensive effort that limited GWU (13-15, 3-10) to a .044 hitting percentage on the night with 35 digs. However, the Runnin' Bulldogs connected when it mattered most with Hannah Driscoll and Nicole Celarek connecting on back-to-back kills in the fifth set to pave the way to the season split between the Bucs and GWU.
Martin entered the match second in the NCAA in total digs, trailing behind Bowling Green's Madeline Garda for the national lead. The sophomore libero from Birmingham, Mich. narrowed the gap following her 35 dig performance against the Runnin' Bulldogs and now sits just three digs behind Garda (595) with 592 digs in the 2016 season with three matches to play. Friday was Martin's fourth 30-plus dig effort in 2016.
Kylie Klein led CSU's attacking efforts on Friday night with a team-high 12 kills. Brooke Monssen added a double-double with 10 kills and 10 digs as the Bucs hit .112 from the floor as a team. Naiomi Rivera also completed a double-double with a career-high 40 assists and 17 digs. Connor Malone recorded a career-high 10 blocks in the match to lead the Bucs at the net, while Monssen fell shy of a triple-double with seven total blocks.
Taylor Lillard led all players with 17 kills and added 23 digs to complete a double-double to pace the Runnin' Bulldogs on Friday night. Emma Milstead led the defensive efforts with 25 digs. Tinsley Fain (22) and Amanda Sahm (21) combined to set up the GWU offense.
Gardner-Webb utilized a 5-0 run to build a 13-8 advantage following a Hannah Lancaster kill midway through the match. The Bucs rallied back behind six Klein kills in the first frame to tie the set up at 20-20 late. The Bucs and Runnin' Bulldogs tied the frame up three more times with the final at 23-23 before GWU recorded the final two points in the 25-23 set win.
Charleston Southern broke a 6-6 tie in the second set with a 6-0 run on their way evening the match following the 25-15 win. Klein served the Bucs to a 12-6 lead and CSU's margin never fell below five the rest of the way to take the victory.
CSU took the 2-1 lead following a late 5-0 run on Macey LaPorte's serve that capped the 25-20 set win. The Bucs took advantage of 11 GWU attack errors and four Malone blocks to take the frame.
Gardner-Webb rallied back from an 18-16 deficit in the fourth set on its way to evening the match. Kiera Moore sparked the Runnin' Bulldogs with a kill and Kacey O'Connor served GWU to five straight points on their way to taking the 25-21 set win.
The Bucs and Runnin' Bulldogs tied up 10 times and swapped the lead three times in the fifth frame before GWU took control of the set late. Hannah Western helped CSU hold off set point with a kill late, but a solo block from GWU's Driscoll ended the match in favor of the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Charleston Southern closes out the home portion of the 2016 season tomorrow night as CSU hosts Winthrop. The Bucs will hold Senior Night festivities prior to first serve as CSU recognizes 2016 seniors Connor Malone and Taylor Allman. First serve on the Big South Network is set for 6 p.m.